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  • “One can see that that our misunderstanding regarding the rule of law is on-going,” the Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs Konrad Szymanski said on Wednesday, commenting on Jean-Claude Juncker's speech in the European Parliament.


    The Deputy Minister pointed out that "there is no dispute between Warsaw and Brussels regarding the principle itself.” "It is as important to us as it is for Brussels," he assured. He said that the dispute "concerns the interpretation of this principle". "The EC pretends that it does not understand this," Szymanski added.


    The deputy head of the MFA also commented that the proposal of "de facto liquidating the position of the President of the European Council is very confrontational with regard to member states and Donald Tusk himself." He stressed that he is surprised "how openly the EC is fighting for influence at a time when the EU itself has not yet emerged from numerous crises of a serious political nature."


    In his annual one-hour speech in Strasbourg on the state of the European Union, Juncker spoke about principles that he believed should be undisputed in the EU, pointing to freedom, equality and the rule of law. He said that for the EU the rule of law is not an option, it must be a duty. He also stressed the need for member states to respect valid judgments and judgments of national courts and the Court of Justice of the EU.


    Referring to the remarks made by the head of the Commission, the deputy foreign minister stated that they indicate that "our misunderstanding on the rule of law is on-going". "There is no dispute between Warsaw and Brussels about the principle itself, as it is important for us as it is for Brussels. The dispute deals with the interpretation of this principle and the EC does not understand this,” he stressed.


    Szymański also referred to Juncker's programme of EU reforms, including a proposal for the merger of the positions of the Presidency of the European Council and the head of the European Commission. Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is currently serving his second 2.5-year term as President of the Council.


    According to the proposal presented by Juncker, the candidate for the joint posts would be known during the elections to the European Parliament. He explained that "the European landscape would be more readable and comprehensible if the Europe ship was run by one captain." Juncker said that he would not seek the nomination himself. He also emphasized that his proposal "is not directed personally at my good friend Donald Tusk (the head of the Council) nor at myself."


    "The proposal of de facto liquidating the position of the President of the European Council is very confrontational with regard to the member states and Donald Tusk himself," the deputy minister told PAP. "I am surprised by the EC’s open fight for influence at a time when the EU itself has not yet emerged from numerous crises of a serious political nature," he added.


    At the same time, the Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs praised other issues in Juncker's speech, relating to issues including the migration crisis. The head of the European Commission announced in the EP that the Commission would present a new proposal regarding migration by the end of September. The proposal will focus on sending back those who do not qualify for asylum, cooperation with African countries and creating legal migration paths to the EU.


    "I like seeing the success of the EU in quelling the migration crisis through cooperation with countries of origin and transit. We are co-authors of this success, as we demanded such a EU policy from the very beginning. We want it to be continued,” the politician said.


    He also described as "valuable" the "modest promises of a compromise on reform of the asylum system." "We will see where this goes," Szymański said.


    Referring to a part of the speech by the head of the Commission on the EU’s economic situation, the deputy head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that – given the “trauma following the Eurozone crisis" – he shares Juncker's "relative economic optimism". "Poland is an important part of European growth," he noted.


    In this context, the deputy minister insisted: "We are concerned by the strong visibility of the potentially protectionist agenda, the EU’s activities regarding labour and social policy."


    At the same time, the deputy head of the MFA expressed his satisfaction at the fact that the President of the Commission emphasized the "importance of EU institutional unity". However, he also warned that "appeals for a majority vote in the field of fiscal and foreign policy can mean significant problems for EU political unity." "Nevertheless, a dictate by the largest states is not a recipe to solve internal EU problems," he pointed out.


    Referring on Wednesday afternoon to Juncker's speech, Szymański also said that he lacked a "serious reference" by the head of the EC to "international security issues". "What is happening in our eastern and southern neighbourhood affects the condition of the Union," he argued.


    According to Juncker's proposal, EU reforms are expected to be substantial, but without the need to amend EU treaties. The EC chief plans to carry out the changes by the end of March 2019, at a special summit in the Romanian city of Sibiu in order to send a positive message to Europeans which coincides with the UK’s exit from the EU.  It is no coincidence that this will take place only a few weeks before the European Parliament elections. In his Wednesday speech Juncker pointed to the good economic situation of the Union, the decline in unemployment, and the return of confidence in the European project among Europeans. "All this makes us believe that the wind is blowing in our sails. The window of opportunity has opened, but it will not remain open forever,” he pointed out. The head of the European Commission also announced the creation of an EU labour law enforcement office to deal with enforcement of regulations on workers posted from one EU country to another. "In the EU, there must be no second-class employees. The same job, in the same place, should be entitled to the same salary," he stressed.


    Juncker distanced himself from the idea of a separate budget for the countries of the single currency. At the same time, however, he announced the separation of the "strong line" for Eurozone within the EU's general budget. According to the head of the EC, the euro zone would also have its Minister of Economy and Finance, who would also be a member of the European Commission (preferably its Vice-President) and the head of the Eurogroup. Already in December, the EC is due to propose to transform the European Stability Mechanism into a European emergency fund, which, like the International Monetary Fund, would be a "financial drip" for countries in crisis.


    Juncker also stated that he would like member states to depart in some cases from making unanimous decisions in favour of the qualified majority. These changes are in reference to the common corporate tax base, VAT, and financial transaction tax.


    He also spoke in favour of transnational lists in the European Parliament elections and for campaigns to be launched earlier than they have been in the past. Juncker also said that the European Commission is proposing new rules for group funding to prevent them being used against the EU by extremist movements.


    The EC President also pointed out that all EU countries, regardless of whether they are small or large, in the east or in the west, have the same rights. "Europe has to breathe with both lungs: eastern and western, otherwise it will become short of breath," he said. He also argued that there is no space for second-class citizens in equal EU countries.

     

    Source: PAP

     

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